When we talk about getting enough sleep, we’re usually referring to the duration, but we need to recognise that length of sleep is only one part of the equation – the quality of that sleep is also very important.

 

Sleep physicians or researchers use the terms sleep insufficiency or deficiency to accommodate both quality and quantity of sleep.1,2

 

Perhaps you’ve experienced the situation in which you slept for 8 hours but you didn’t wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day. Multiple awakenings during the night or interruptions to your natural sleep cycle (see this link for more information – link to ‘which stage is most important?’ blog) leave you feeling tired or sleep deprived.

 

Now that we’ve established quantity and quality of sleep are both important, what’s stopping us from achieving that goal?

 

Well, there are many factors that we can control and there are others that may not be as easy to control, but we can try and minimise.

 

For example, we can choose not to drink caffeine before bed. We can choose not to drink too much alcohol, which disrupts the sleep cycle.3 And we can choose not to stimulate our brain with a smart phone. Other things like traffic noise, a snoring partner or too much light in the bedroom are slightly trickier to control, but still achievable.

Then there’s the behavioural habits – binge watching your most recent favourite series or boxed set, which destroys your normal sleep routine.

 

How to avoid the common causes

 

Light blocking masks are a great way to stop unwanted light, while earplugs specifically designed for sleep can help suppress the noise of a snoring partner without destroying the relationship or adding another room to the house.

 

Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe the habits that will help you sleep well, or at least help increase the chances of you getting a good night’s rest. What does that look like?

 

  1. Establish a sleep routine
    Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Your body and mind will soon get used to the habit.
  2. A screen-free zone
    Devices, TVs and laptops have no place in the bedroom. Your mind needs to associate being in bed with sleeping, not looking at a screen. The blue light emitted by electronic devices stimulates your brain, so try and avoid. If you use a device for reading, invest in some blue light filter glasses.
  3. Relax before you rest
    Try and get into the habit of doing something relaxing before heading to bed. Many people find that a warm shower or bath helps. Try not to think about problems you need to solve. Maybe even learn how to meditate. Some people find listening to white noise useful. It helps synchronise your brain into a slower pattern. In fact, a recent study found white noise such as a fan can reduce the time it takes you to fall asleep by 38%.4 Or checkout a Sleep Sound Machine (https://welcare.com.au/product/welcare-sleep-tight-sleep-sound-machine/)
  4. Avoid caffeine or alcoholic drinks before bed
    As we mentioned above, alcohol can make you drowsy, but it has been shown to disrupt your natural sleep cycle. Caffeine in tea, coffee or energy drinks stimulate your body, too best avoided.
  5. Make your bedroom comfortable and inviting to sleep
    Block out light – light is one of the biggest factors to limit sleep: it inhibits melatonin, the hormone to help you fall and stay asleep. If you can’t block light, consider a light blocking mask.
    If noise is an issue, invest in some earplugs designed for sleep – they’re inexpensive but effective.
  6. Diffuse lavender – especially if you’re anxious. Clinical trials5 show lavender can reduce anxiety by 45% – which may otherwise keep you awake.

 

To learn more about light blocking masks, click here.

To learn more about earplugs for sleep, click here.

 

Sources:

  1.  https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-deprivation
  2. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency
  3. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/alcohol-and-sleep
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5742584/
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S094471130900261X?via=ihub